Slaying the Silo Marketing Dragon

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Have you ever had the task of changing how you do business with your customers?  You probably receive marching orders like this from your management on a daily basis.

But what about being truly “obsessed” with you customers?  Probably one of the biggest tasks facing most marketers today is how to slay the “silo marketing” dragon.

Over the last year, I have been studying and providing constructive feedback on the overall state of B2B marketing, influencer relations, and customer issues and communications in various social media channels and forums I actively participate in — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn amongst others.

I firmly believe one of the most hotly contested debates permeating the social media airwaves is why are corporations still focused on “silo marketing” when “integrated and “relationship-based” marketing and customer communications models are helping companies like Best Buy, BT, Dell, Apple, and Zappos take their businesses to a new level.

Silo marketing has always been a traditional function and departmental-based method of marketing.   And while the 4 p’s of marketing – pricing, product management, promotion and placement – still apply here this business model is outdated, antiquary and most importantly misaligned with the way we should think about customers:  on a deep, passionate, engaging, and intimate level.

According to Wikipedia, “customer centricity” refers to the orientation of a company to the needs and behaviours of its customers, rather than internal drivers (such as the quest for short-term profit).  Not surprisingly today when marketers think “customers” they throw technology, products and services at them without studying their business needs and behaviors.

This is why “relationship or integrated” marketing approaches  — in other words “customer-centric marketing” — are revolutionizing how companies do business — from innovation, product research to customer satisfaction and social media.   The relationship marketing model reverses the traditional marketing approach of throwing shiny things at your customers and instead helps you listen and engage with them more directly.

How many times do you ask your customer “What business problem are you trying to solve?”  Product or technology-focused marketing approaches lose sight of a customers’ main issues and leave many organizations feeling left out.

How many times has your company launched a new product or service without talking to your customers first?  How do you measure the ROI of that product or service?  Usually it involves surveying your customer base and developing metrics that help evolve their problems and needs.

We are living in a “services-oriented” economy where the customer is gaining more traction, influence, and leverage in everything you do from a marketing perspective.   Customers are more vocal than they have ever been before, and you need to listen to them, NOT talk down to them.

Living in silos has also been a cultural philosophy for a very long time.  But does this mean we should stay in our “silos” box?  Does your CMO and CTO discuss customer issues with your sales and customer teams?  Chances are your customer marketing efforts are departmentalized across the business. Customer centricity is an inside job too.   Collaboration, trust and loyalty should also be built across your departments to give every employee value and start thinking like a customer does.

A good friend of mine, Fred McClimans, who provides professional and consulting services to a range of clients, came up with a great idea.  Why doesn’t every company employ a “Chief Synergy Officer.”  This person’s primary job would be to bridge the gap between the customer teams, the sales teams, marketing teams and other departments within an organization hierarchical structure.   By “synergizing” the entire company, every employee becomes a critical part of their customers’ success and value chain.

The bottom line is the silo marketing dragon needs to be slayed right now if you want to remain in business.   This “customer centric” philosophy needs to be part of everything you do in your job, how you interact with your customers, and how your company survives in the long run.

How do you see the future state of marketing evolving and what are you doing to break down the silos?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Disclosure: I have more than 20 years of marketing, PR, strategy and customer communications experience working for large corporations.  To that end, I have worked with teams of people employing both siloed and integrated marketing approaches in various aspects of my career.

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4 responses to “Slaying the Silo Marketing Dragon

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Slaying the Silo Marketing Dragon « Loudy Out Loud -- Topsy.com

  2. Hi Stephen,

    Great post. I have spent my career creating a customer-centric online approach for my enterprise clients. Some get it and embrace sustainable success; others not so much.

    The big difference I found was not just the outdated business model, but putting selfish need (politics, personal gain, laziness, indifference, jealousy) and corporate need (profit, expansion, plundering current customers, cutting costs) ahead of customers. The companies able to raise above these two elements were wildly successful. Still a painful process, but nothing worth doing is easy.

    A couple other thoughts….
    – My work has focused on the customer life-cycle, not a marketing or sales life-cycle. It has been a successful way to help get past the emotional baggage in silos to integrate sales and marketing.
    – What do you think of an employee experience model? I have always referred to employees as internal customers and an unhappy employee is incapable of creating a positive customer experience.
    – There is another aspect to customer need (almost always assumed to be logical/business need) which is emotional need. I am shocked at how many b2B marketers forget they are dealing with people, not companies.

    Every person, without exception, makes decisions based on emotion and then justifies with logic.

    Is there way to “break down the silos” without actually breaking the people who have vested political/emotional interests in the silos?

    It will be interesting to see how social relationships begin to erode silos in large enterprise. We have seen a customer revolution and i think an employee revolution is on the horizon.

    Again, great post.

  3. Stephen lots of great insight here. Breaking down silos is a huge but necessary challenge. I agree with Jeff and Sam turf protection is a significant problem.

    After reading switch probably the best place to start is on a small scale creating allies who can demonstrate how cooperation and attending to the needs of customers and employees will ultimately benefit everyone.

    I’ll have to mark this and refer to it in the future!

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Your points echo the sentiment of many of our partners and clients, Stephen. A renewed focus on the customer is exactly what’s needed. Regrettably, the massive rush to social media, has made many of us more siloed and less social.

    I predict (and am seeing) the pendulum swing in the opposite direction, with firms integrating old-fashioned relationship development and collaboration strategies (inside and outside the corporation) achieving a 1+1=3 outcome.

    Thanks again for raising the awareness on the importance of integration, and keeping the customer at the center of all we do!

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